England and Wales' shared legal system faces test, says Lord Chief Justice

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The effectiveness of sharing a legal system with increasing variations between the laws in England and Wales will be tested in the coming year, the Lord Chief Justice has said.

But Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said: "We can make the current system work."

If laws were to "diverge even further" that was an issue "for the future", Lord Thomas told MPs.

He said the question of whether or not Wales should have a separate legal system was a political issue.

Lord Thomas was replying to Delyn Labour MP David Hanson, as he appeared before the Justice Committee on Tuesday.

The "proof of the pudding" for the current legal system would be in the next 12 months, as a new law affecting landlords and tenants in Wales comes into effect, Lord Thomas said.

"Will people, say in a court in one of the English cities, realise that if you've got a dispute about a rented property in Wales, the law will not be what is English law - it'll be Welsh law, and that is a problem we haven't yet worked out how to deal with," he said.

On the merits of a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales, Lord Thomas said: "We can make the current system work.

"What will be the position if the laws diverge even further I think is a matter for the future, but at the moment I think that we've got in place a system that will work, but it needs keeping very firmly under review."

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